The oldest military unit in Vancouver is dealing with a “situation”, says an officer.
That situation, according to Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Shepherd, is the new bike lane in front of the downtown garrison of the British Columbia Regiment.
It’s not that Shepherd and his comrades-in-arms with the Duke of Connaught's Own are against bike lanes.
“We’re all for bike lanes,” Shepherd said. “Our soldiers, women and men, use bikes, and a lot of them use bikes to get to the unit.”
But the new protected bike lane that has sprung up in front of the armoured reconnaissance reserve regiment’s garrison on Beatty Street is a different story.
Because of that separated bike lane, the unit’s dedicated military parking by the curb is gone. Now, military vehicles have to be parked further out on the street.
And that’s not all. According to Shepherd, city hall has threatened to tow the regiment’s vehicles if they don’t keep off the new bike lane.
Shepherd said that the bike lane poses health and safety issues because soldiers and cyclists may crash into each other when military vehicles are being loaded.
“We don’t want to have a situation where a biker can be hurt while we’re trying to load, and we sure don’t want a situation where any of our soldiers could be hurt,” he said.
Shepherd claimed that city hall didn’t consult the regiment.
The honorary lieutenant-colonel related at a media briefing Wednesday (June 1) that he got a call from a staff member of city hall in the morning before he was to meet reporters.
Shepherd said that the city staffer asked him not to talk about the bike lane. When Shepherd asked what the city is going to do with it, “he said, ‘we’ll see how everything goes, and collect statistics and see if it’s a danger’”.
“And we said,” Shepherd continued, “’well how about just taking off the paint off for now, and going to the way it was until we figure out what should be done’?”
The city staffer responded, “Oh no. It’s painted now.”
For Shepherd, “That’s not consultation.”
The city has been updating its downtown network of bike lanes.
The previous painted bike lanes on Beatty Street were shared with vehicle parking and turning lanes.
According to city hall, that kind of arrangement was not good.
“The current design is uncomfortable for many people, as it includes painted bike lanes between the parking and travel lanes with no protection, and with the bike lane sometimes shared with the parking/turn lane,” stated a staff report last year.
The report added: “Staff plan to upgrade the route to all ages and abilities (AAA) status by creating bike lanes protected by parking in one direction, and measures such as bollards or concrete medians in the other direction. The upgrade will require removal of parking on one side of the street, and staff will consult with neighbouring businesses to understand issues and minimize impacts.”
Shepherd’s superior, Honorary Colonel Ted Hawthorne, told reporters that the British Columbia Regiment has been at its Beatty Street base for 115 years.
According to Hawthorne, the regiment wasn’t informed by city hall about what will happen in front of its base.
“Now, we’re pushed almost into traffic,” Hawthorne said.
Councillor Melissa De Genova with the Non-Partisan Association showed up at the media briefing outside the Beatty Street garrison.
De Genova described the regiment’s bike lane problem as another example of the ruling Vision Vancouver’s “tunnel vision” on civic matters.